Our second stop was a known destination for us: George Town the island of Punau Pinang (also called Penang). We had been to this world heritage site a few years ago and were looking forward to exploring the charming city with its small side streets once again.
The location of the cruise terminal was the best of the entire trip: more or less in the centre of the city. No need for taxi’s or lengthy bus transfers: just walk off the boat and you’re right in the middle of things. In that respect even better than the terminal in Singapore (and definitely a lot better than Kuala Lumpur, Hoh-Chi-Minh City or Bangkok).
As we prefer to use the land visits to escape the “cruise bubble” as much as possible, we were off the boat on our own fairly early in the morning. The plan was to walk past the colonial town hall, magistrate building and St. George’s church (all three close to the sea and a stone’s throw from the cruise terminal) before heading into town. And that’s what we did.
On the way into town we got to talking with another couple from the ship, who have a daughter about Luka’s age and whom she had met the previous day at the kids club. We (as parents) also hit it off and decided to explore the city together.
George Town is a colourful mixture of cultures and religions. Christian churches, Chinese temples, Hindu shrines: all sit peacefully side-by-side and are being used by the local population to show their devotion as much as they are tourist spots. The multitude of little streets with their small shops and restaurants makes this a very enjoyable place to visit.
As part of becoming a world heritage site, George Town commissioned a number of wall-art pieces. Made from wrought iron, they depict scenes from the past and explain, why certain streets have their names and what industry was practiced here.
Walking through town, we happened upon a movie shoot: a large number of people with cameras and equipment standing around to film four guys chasing a bloody fifth one past one of the Chinese tong (clan) houses that are so numerous here.
After spending the morning, we decided on lunch back on the boat. The kids were slightly tired (and the pool was calling), so Willemijn decided to stay on board as well, while Stephan, Annett and I took a cab to visit the Kek Lok Si Temple.
Located about a half-hour drive from the cruise terminal, this large complex sits on the slopes of one of the local mountain, overlooking the city and the ocean. This was one of the places we had not visited before and I was glad that we made the effort.
All in all, Penang was a great stop, offering a wide variety of activities in very close proximity to the boat (which saves a lot of time on transfers). The vibrant city is a joy to visit and experience and the surrounding area offers a number of really interesting spots to see. Definitely worth a second visit!